Should Indians drive cars? Part 2
The climate conference in Copenhagen was a car crash - virtually everyone, including President Obama, seems agreed on that.
So the question for the New Year is how to ensure that the deal is improved on in Mexico - or wherever the next conference will be. Nothing ambitious, then.
First, though, we need to understand why Copenhagen led to such a disappointing agreement.
The answer is perhaps pretty simple. Indeed, the root problem seemed clear when the Ethical Man team went to India two and a half years ago.
I gave our report the rather provocative title Should Indians drive cars?. Our objective was to create an Indian Ethical Man. You can see below whether we succeeded.
The reason Copenhagen foundered was because most countries refused to set aside their narrow national interests for the long-term future well-being of the entire planet.
Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution, economic development and hence national wealth has been based on the use of fossil fuels. And fossil fuels are still by far the cheapest and easiest form of energy.
What happened at Copenhagen was that most countries chose to try and protect their rights to go on using them.
The conference degenerated into the equivalent of a land-grab - not for territory on Earth, but for atmospheric space and the right to pollute it.
The environmentalist George Monbiot described it as "a scramble for the atmosphere comparable in style and intent to the scramble for Africa". He wrote from Copenhagen:
"Most rich and rapidly developing states have sought through these talks to seize as great a chunk of the atmosphere for themselves as they can - to grab bigger rights to pollute than their competitors. The process couldn't have been better designed to produce the wrong results."
But actually this was always the most likely outcome. This was, after all, a conference of nation states, and nation states exist to promote national interests.
Indeed, the conference was a graphic demonstration of the fact that what is in the best interests of a country is not necessarily in the best interests of the people who live in it.
So how can countries be persuaded to put the world first?
Gordon Brown says the process of negotiation needs to be reformed: "Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down these talks," he said in the wake of the conference. "Never again should we let a global deal to move towards a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries."
It's a theme that has been taken up by the UN itself. Just before Christmas, Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that there were problems with the process and said he would consider how it could be streamlined.
The danger is that reforming the negotiating process is likely to lead to criticisms that powerful nations are trying use their influence to determine the outcome of the deal.
In the meantime, though, the diplomatic focus is on trying to persuade countries to increase the emissions cuts they have signed up to. Targets on cuts were not included in the Copenhagen accord and must by submitted by the end of this month.
That's when the real scope of the deal in Copenhagen will become clear.
But it is hard to be optimistic. It is rare that nation states put aside national interests for the greater good of the world. Can you think of any examples of when they have? Let's see how long (or short) a list we can come up with in the comments.
I'll chuck in the 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone to get things started - undoubtedly a success, but nothing like the scale of what was being attempted at Copenhagen. A prize to anyone who can come up with an international agreement that involved anything like the sacrifice represented by cutting fossil fuel use. BBC guidelines may preclude that prize being a bottle of champagne - if so, I'll award an Ethical Man Award.